January 2, 2013

States have subsidized assault rifle makers to tune of $19M

Taxpayers across the country have subsidized the manufacturers of assault rifles used in multiple mass killings.

By John Christie, Naomi Schalit, Theresa Sullivan Barger and Nathaniel Herz © Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting

(Continued from page 2)

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Barbara Richardson: “I feel horrified at the power of the gun industry over our political system, that it could exert such influence.”

Photo by Theresa Sullivan Barger

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Mary Hamula: “I think with everything that happened in Newtown, I think the culture around guns is going to change. If something positive comes out of it, that’s all we can ask for.”

Photo by Theresa Sullivan Barger

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PDF: Gun subsidies by state

“The fact that we’re providing a tax break to a company that’s providing jobs and high quality firearms to our state police doesn’t raise a red flag for me,” Haskell said.

Massachusetts’ $6 million deal

In 2010, Massachusetts approved $6 million in tax breaks to Smith & Wesson, which announced it would move its Thompson/Center hunting rifle division from New Hampshire to Springfield. The move meant an expansion of the firm’s Springfield headquarters and the addition of 225 jobs there.

James Debney, president of Smith & Wesson, said the company chose the Bay State over several other states because local and state officials, including Gov. Deval Patrick, “collaborated … to make our choice clear.”

Locally, the company got a $600,000 tax break from Springfield on top of the state’s $6 million.

“It’s a big win for the city - 225 jobs and $14 million (in investments) this year alone,” John D. Judge, the city’s chief development officer, told the Springfield Republican.


New York: public good?

Remington Arms received $5.5 million in New York subsidies and grants since 2007. The company was founded in Ilion, NY in the early 1800s and its purchase by Cerberus Capital Management, which owns the Freedom Group, was announced in April 2007. Almost $4.5 million of the subsidies were targeted at luring 200 jobs to Ilion from Remington and Cerberus-affiliated manufacturing plants in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

The subsidies became an issue in 2012 when Remington and another subsidized New York gun manufacturer, Kimber Manufacturing, fought against proposed state legislation that mandated microstamping for bullet casings, which gun control advocates and police said would help solve gun crimes.

The gun-control advocacy group New Yorkers Against Gun Violence (NYAGV), said that the gun companies’ opposition to the legislation meant they weren’t serving the public interest.

Jackie Hilly, executive director of NYAGV, said, "I do have a problem with people who are taking money from the state … and then flatly refusing to serve some sort of public good. That’s public money that’s being used, and I think there should be some kind of public good that comes out of it."


Kentucky: 100 new jobs

Kentucky granted Smith & Wesson $6.1 million in subsidies since 1998, including, $4.5 million to subsidize the expansion of the company’s Graves County facility, where it planned to add 100 jobs.

Gov. Steve Beshear’s office did not return phone calls asking for comment on the subsidies. But at the time the grant was made, Beshear said, “The creation of 100 new jobs and a $5 million investment in the Commonwealth will have a tremendous impact and is a testament to our ongoing commitment to support our existing industries.”


Newtown: shift in thinking

A college student having coffee at Starbucks in Newtown last week said that while she doesn’t like subsidizing assault-rifle makers, she knows there are other Americans who don’t like funding programs she and her friends care about.

“I don’t understand someone’s need to own an assault weapon,” said Mary Hamula, 18, of Newtown. “If this hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have a huge problem with tax subsidies. I’m a big proponent of government-subsidized healthcare.”

But she felt that public opinion might shift support away from tax subsidies for assault weapons.

“I think with everything that happened in Newtown, I think the culture around guns is going to change. If something positive comes out of it, that’s all we can ask for,” she said. “It did break us. Nobody here wants that to happen to another community.”

The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting is a nonpartisan, non-profit news service based in Hallowell, Maine. Email: mainecenter@gmail.com. Web: pinetreewatchdog.org. John Christie and Naomi Schalit are senior reporters with the center. Nathaniel Herz is a reporter with The New York World. Theresa Sullivan Barger is a freelance writer in Connecticut.

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